Category: Travel Blog (page 1 of 6)

Hunting for Kob

My family has been visiting Wavecrest hotel for more than forty years. It is where I went on my summer holidays when I was a kid, and I have many happy memories from the place. I did a trip there a couple of weeks ago, along with my Dad, Geoff, who will be turning eighty in May, and his brother Ron, who is turning eighty four, also in May. It was great to do a boys trip, as we have done in the past, and while it was only for four days, it was definitely special to get back there together.

The staff welcomed us like returning family, after a drive of almost eight hours through the Transkei, with the last 35km having been dirt.

While my Dad and my uncle were planning on fishing with natural baits for edible species, I had been preparing some paddle tails and a variety of other artificial lures to target kob over the next four days. The weather forecast was looking good and the surf size looked reasonable.

We had booked over spring tides, which allowed my Dad and uncle to get fresh bait from the rocks at low tide. The rocks in this area are full of life and it is easy to collect red bait, octopus and crabs from the rocks and pools.

I had brought my little river boat along as well. I was keen to try the river for kob and garrick as well as the surf, particularly if there was some north easterly wind and the sea water got very cold.

On the first day I concentrated mainly on the river, exploring and checking out the channels and the structure. I caught some small Garrick and kob on a 72mm suspending Sebile Stick Shadd, a lure that is proving to be deadly for our estuary species.

I also got some small kob and Garrick on a 3” soft plastic Berkley Powerbait jerk minnow, rigged on a 1/8 oz jighead. The fish were right on the bottom at that stage and the only way to get a bite was to bounce a lure off the mud slowly.

The following day I decided to try for some kob in the surf. We walked the rocks to the south of the hotel, looking for areas that looked good for kob. I found a spot with lovely milky water, with lots of sand and bubbles in it, with some deep channels near rocks.

I made some casts with a paddletail rigged weedless. The first hit came on about the third cast, but no hookup. It was good to have confirmed that the fish were there though and I kept trying. A short while later I had another bite and this time I set the hook and felt the fish on the other end. After a short fight I landed the kob, taking care not to scrape it on the rocks as I brought it ashore. It wasn’t a big fish, but it was the target species and I was pleased.

I fished a number of other spots before getting a second fish on the paddletail. It was around the same size as the first fish, but caught about a kilometer away, from some different rocks.

I found that the Berkley Salt water Grass Pig was working well. The narrow shape allowed me to cast it far, while the soft plastic gave it lots of movement, even at low speeds. The narrow profile also ensured a better hookup rate, as the hook point was exposed much easier than on a normal bodied paddle tail. I rigged these on the 5/0 Owner Twistlock Swimbait hooks. These were perfect for kob, and worked very well.

That night it rained quite heavily at the hotel and the following day the river was quite muddy.

I parked the boat near a drop off at a deepish hole in the river and started working the area with a ½ oz Berkley Fusion Bucktail jig in blue and white. I had been fishing the area for a couple of hours when my jig suddenly stopped and line started peeling from my spool. After a hard fight, with some solid head nodding, I landed a lovely river kob. The fish lay on the surface next to the boat, gills pumping and I was able to appreciate a solid fish in the 5kg range.

My Dad and my uncle had a great trip. They landed a number of bronze bream, kob, blacktail, musselcracker, etc from the rocks. It was good to see them having a successful rock and surf trip at their age, one never knows when the limbs are going to become too frail for rock hopping. I enjoyed the time on the river as well as on the rocks. Hunting kob is a great challenge and it is always very satisfying when a hunch pays off and fish are caught as a result.

In Situ

The English Dictionary defines the phrase “in situ”, as: ‘In the natural, original or appropriate position’. When one is in northern Mozambique, however, it would simply mean being in one of the most pleasant, scenic and understated lodges, also a highly appropriate position to find one’s self occupying.

A small, intimate lodge, tucked away in a quiet bay on a remote island, Situ Island Resort ticks all the boxes expected of a tropical ocean getaway. Sandy floors in the communal areas, an honesty system in the self-service bar, unobtrusive staff and comfortable island style chalets separate this lodge from the rest.

 The direct flight on SA Airlink from Johannesburg to Pemba has made trips to the north of Mozambique more convenient. Gone are the days where one needed to fly via Maputo, and then the long flight up the coast, adding many hours and kilometers to the journey. The direct flight has been implemented due to demand created by large gas and oil companies moving staff and contractors into and out of Cabo Delgado province, where huge gas fields have been discovered. Lodges in the area are benefitting from these direct flights, with Pemba now being less than three hours flight from Johannesburg.

We were able to take advantage of this convenience last week, when we flew to Pemba, on our way to Situ. The flight landed in Pemba just before 12.30 pm and we were at the lodge enjoying cold refreshments, after a comfortable boat transfer, by 3 pm.

It was great to be back at Situ, where we had had such a wonderful trip two years ago.  It can be a concern to return to a place, with the fear of it not living up to its previous standards, but on this trip, we simply picked up exactly where we left off. Everything was as good as it had been before.

We were aware that a tropical weather system was building up. The seasonal Kasakazi winds were blowing down from Kenya and Tanzania, and there was a low-pressure system moving up the African coast from the Cape. The result of this was that we were going to experience some big winds, rough seas and some periods of rain during our stay. Forewarned however, is forearmed, and we knew that we would need to take advantage of the weather gaps as they presented themselves.

We fished from the lodge’s thirty eight foot Supercat, an excellent fishing platform, and a comfortable and spacious ride. Skippered by Craig Macdonald, manager of the lodge and a very experienced skipper, we were able to get around in some pretty rough conditions at times. The Situ area has a wide variety of habitat and consequently a huge diversity of fish species. This meant that we could employ all the techniques that we wanted to, from jigging and popping to spinning and trolling.

Despite adverse weather and sea conditions, we managed to land a good variety of species, from grouper to barracuda, including four species of kingfish and some tuna. My highlight of the trip was landing a dogtooth tuna of around 18kg’s on a soft plastic lure jigged beneath the boat.

These fish are on every fisherman’s bucket list and are becoming harder and harder to find these days. I had landed a smaller one on our previous trip, so I knew they were in the area and had been hoping to get into another on this trip.

Our wives did some scuba diving when conditions allowed and then relaxed at the lodge, taking advantage of massages and a tour to the local fishing village while we were out hunting the big one.

Meals were amazing, whipped up by Craig and made from fresh, locally sourced seafood. It amazed us every day that Craig would jump off the boat after a fishing session, remove his fishing cap and don an apron, then within an hour call us to the table to partake of some exotic and delicious treat.

Too soon our time was up and we found ourselves back on the boat, getting transferred to Pemba for our flight home. While the weather may not have been perfect, every other aspect of the trip was great and we all looked back at the island as it disappeared into the haze and hoped that we would be back again soon.

The Baines of my Life

Once a year we drag our wives, kicking and screaming from the comfort of their kitchens, on a film shoot to an exotic and luxurious destination like Seychelles or the islands of Mozambique.

You will appreciate that we are forced to film ourselves fishing for a living, so when we make these magnanimous concessions to our better halves, the warm glow of generosity seeping through our souls is a tangible thing.

The rest of the year we travel as an all- male crew, and more often than not, feel the warm glow of single malt seeping gently through our livers.

It seems we agree on one thing though, and it’s that we all love the lower Zambezi.

It’s been a number of years since we featured Baines River Camp in our TV shows, and being one of the most luxurious properties available on the entire the length of the Zambezi, when they invited us back we knew we couldn’t leave the girls out of this one without risking the coldest of shoulders.

Accordingly, we jumped on an early morning Airlink flight up to Lusaka and after a comfortable road transfer, were happily cruising down the river, cold beverage in hand, before lunch time.

At over 2500km long, the Zambezi is the fourth longest river in Africa and is in fact the longest East flowing waterway on the continent.

Over the years we have been fortunate enough to traverse almost its entire length and I for one have never tired of it. However, the section between the Kariba Dam wall and the headwaters of Cahorra Bassa Dam, the border between Zim and Zambia, known generally as the lower Zambezi, is one of my favourite places on earth.

With the Mana Pools Reserve on the Zimbabwe side and the Lower Zambezi National Park on the opposite bank, you could easily be forgiven for thinking you were in the Garden of Eden, minus the old Apple tree. There are definitely serpents around though. The last time we visited Baines an African Rock Python, which was the biggest snake any of us has ever seen, slithered nonchalantly through the camp on his way to the river.

The Elephants here are somewhat used to being around humans, and without the threat of being hunted, will casually wander into camp for a drink of water from the swimming pool, or to munch a few juicy pods off the trees within spitting distance of your deck chair.

Large herds of Buffalo inhabit the islands in the river and the ever present Hippo pods frolic and grunt contentedly in their watery playground. Crocodiles bask on the sand banks, lulled by the cries of the Fish Eagles from their lofty lairs.

This area has the largest concentration of Leopard on the planet and on an evening game drive one almost inevitably comes across one or two of these magnificent cats.

Two big male Lions made an appearance while we were having lunch on the bank of the river, but were clearly not hungry themselves, and preferred a siesta in the heat of the day to chasing us off our shady spot.

This year, although the water level is low due to a severe drought, the lower Zambezi has had a bumper fishing season, with a number of Tiger Fish over 20 pounds being recorded. I was fishing with Scott Brown who helped build Baines camp 12 years ago and is still involved in the management of the operation. He also loves fishing.

We decided to catch and release as many fish as we could, using as many different methods as possible. What a blast! Seldom does a plan like this come together so well, and we managed to release 6 Tigers over 10 pounds (the largest being 14 pounds). These and others landed on spinners, strip baits (on circle hooks allowing a clean release), bucktail jigs, poppers and stick baits. We also spent many happy hours chasing the Tilapia (Bream) species in the smaller pools on the edge of the river on light tackle, using flies, spinners and worms. I even had a small croc try to steal a fine Red Breast Bream off my fly, too close to my feet for comfort. Luckily it’s mother wasn’t around.

Sundowners on the sand banks are a tradition in this neck of the woods and it’s hard to think of a more pleasant way to bring the day to a close than sipping a cold G&T to the sound of the gurgling river and the plethora of game and birdlife preparing for their evening activities.

The food at Baines River Camp is a special treat, offered by chefs who clearly take much pride in their work. A nightcap round a hardwood fire and good night’s sleep in an air- conditioned chalet, on a bed made up with percale linen, and sweet dreams of monster fish, rounds out another idyllic day at this very special place.

Now that we’ve spoilt our wives beyond all recognition, I’m just wondering what what on earth we’re going to come up with next year….

More Space Than Time

It’s taken me four trips to the lower Orange River to fully appreciate what this majestic piece of the earth’s surface truly offers us members of the species homo sapiens, and how puny we seem when faced with space of this magnitude.

A visit to this generally arid and remote part of the Northern Cape Province in South Africa, and the mighty river that runs through it, is in many ways, a life changing experience…

Wide open spaces and a river runs through it.

Firstly, once out on the river below the Augrabies Falls, there is absolutely no wi-fi or cell signal. There, you see, life changing, in a good way.

Then, you will come across no other people on this trip. Nada, zero, not one.

It’s you, your mates and an endless spectacular rocky desert landscape. This would be scary if you were not gently bobbing down a large, drinkable, crystal clean, fish filled river, on an inflatable boat. So basically, it’s umm, life changing.

Gently bobbing down the Orange in search of gold.

Kalahari Outventures (KO), our preferred operator in this area, have the important details down to a fine art after a decade of taking clients into the wilderness. To the point where one can expect to enjoy a bitterly cold beer or G&T with ice at the end of the day on a squeaky clean sandy beach, while the guides erect the tents and begin preparations for simple but delicious meals.

Home for the night.

The breathtaking night skies are reason enough on their own to make this excursion and with no dangerous animals to worry about, one is able to pull a mattress up near the fire and drift off to sleep under a magnificent canopy of endless twinkling stars.

I first did this drift 10 years ago with my whole family, the youngest member being 6 years old at the time. It was one of the happiest holidays we have ever had together, with the memories of that trip still discussed and laughed about to this day. You could say that for all of us it was…you guessed it…life changing!

Our subsequent visits have been fairly focused on fishing the river for the TV shows we produce in that genre, and even in this quest we have never been disappointed.

The water is literally teeming with fish and the experienced guides are available to advise and assist in getting flies in the right place to make sure you land a Smallmouth Yellowfish. This indigenous species is remarkably powerful once hooked and they will provide hours of fun to those who enjoy catch and release angling.

Brian with his first Smallmouth Yellowfish.

More recently, Craig Eksteen, the owner of KO, and his friends have “unlocked” the mystery of the Largemouth Yellowfish and it’s now possible to pursue this apex predator with a reasonable chance of success. Slow growing, to well over 20 pounds, these magnificent beasts cruise the deeper sections of water and can be targeted with fast sinking lines and flies. The area below Augrabies Falls has been declared a conservancy and now only catch and release fishing is practiced there.

A Happy Craig Eksteen with a beaut Largemouth.

Time was not on our side when we planned our last trip there, so we chose to fly to Upington on Airlink (daily flights), saving at least a couple of days of driving.

A comfortable two hour transfer to the town of Augrabies, with a well-stocked cold box, and an overnight at the splendid Tutwa Lodge saw us in fine fettle for our river foray.

Tutwa Lodge at sun up.

But you don’t have to fish to enjoy a sojourn to this beautiful area, or a rafting trip down the river.  A visit to the Augrabies Falls, wine and brandy tasting at the many wineries, great lodges and restaurants (try the succulent Karoo lamb) and friendly locals, all add up to a unique tourism experience. 

Should you choose the rafting option though, all I can say is… be ready for a truly life changing experience!

 

 

 

I Met the GT’s of Farquhar

We all know or have met someone who ranks somewhere on the alphabet of the “celebrity” scale and all of us, even the ones who deny it, will drop name at some point about these chance encounters.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I had dops with the Mummy…? You know, that Saffa Hollywood actor Arnold Vosloo?” Or… “You know I bumped into Derek Watts at the airport once, hell of a lekker oke”.

Like most, I have my own “I know a celebrity” stories, and I admit after a few in the pub I’ve dropped their names in casual conversation before. For a year I lived down the hall from Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies, in Dromedaris men’s res at the University of Johannesburg. He was still a baby bok when I met him, and I knew him as “Twinsaver”, he might have washed my dishes once or twice.

I also guided protea legends Jonty Rhodes and Lance “Zulu” Klusener into some trout at Engeleni Farm in the KZN midlands, we had a braai shared some whiskeys and I washed their dishes when we were done.

 

My most memorable celebrity encounter happened on a lonely Atoll in the middle of the Indian Ocean, 10 degrees south of the Equator.

It was where I met and spent some quality time with the GT’s of Farquhar Island. Now before you call me out on how the hell I arrived at the conclusion that a fish qualifies as a celebrity and that I’m squeezing this angle for all it’s worth, let me explain.

The Giant Trevally who inhabit the waters of Farquhar Atoll really are world-famous and, in my eyes, way more interesting than any Jenner/Kardashian sister. These GT’s were the stars of Attenborough’s BBC series, Blue Planet II as the bird-eating fish of the Seychelles.

Gangs of GT’s congregating in an area to feed on the unsuspecting victims flying overhead. Scenes of vicious and calculated attacks in 4k slow motion as the Geets leapt from their own aquatic world into ours to grab a mouth full of feathers and flesh, their awe-inspiring power and intelligence on full display, narrated and detailed by the soothing sound of sir David himself.

 

It really was nature documentary at its finest and not only captured television audiences but did the rounds on social media. Over 5 million views on YouTube, twice as much on Facebook and who knows how many times it was sent on with messaging platforms like WhatsApp.

The clip had gone viral, and at that point, Giant Trevally was the most talked-about fish species on the planet, can you say hashtag bloody #trending!?

I met the GT’s of Farquhar, and they lived up to their reputation. It was off Goelette Island the most southern tip of the Atoll where we bumped into them. Birds were diving on bait balls, and underneath them, the GT’s were feasting.

Massive eruptions and splashes, GT’s jumping clear out of the water. When we got closer to the action we realized what was happening, the packs of Geets feeding on the bait would leap out of the water to grab the birds if they flew too close.

It was a feeding frenzy, unlike anything I have experienced.

 

As soon as your fly hit the water fish would come charging, shouldering each other out of the way trying to get there first. They were big ones and let’s just say we weren’t ready for them.

A couple fly lines shredded in the coral and a rod section or three flying overboard we eventually started landing some.

We spent the entire day drifting around bait balls with birds overhead and monsters below, the irony was that we were filming a television show and for the first time in my short career as a fishing presenter, it actually felt like I was on a TV show.

I think I even made the comment that this does not happen in real life…?

After the dust had settled, our crew sat down and looked at each other, bruised, battered and a little dehydrated we couldn’t hold back the grins.

We realized that we had witnessed something truly spectacular and all agreed it would undoubtedly go down as one of the best filming moments of our careers.

I met the GT’s of Farquhar, heck I had front row seats and a back-stage pass. We laughed and had fun, took a few pictures together and said goodbye. I can tell you they were moerse lekker okes!

It’s difficult to put into words what we saw that day fishing on Farquhar atoll, but luckily we caught some of it on camera and it will be airing on one of the WildFly Fishing Series episodes in the near future so stay tuned to their social media pages for the announcement.

Older posts

© 2020 Wildfly Travel

Powered By Wildfly TravelUp ↑